THE THREE CITIES
The Three Cities are not really cities (we are on a very small island after all), but it’s actually small towns.
Today’s post will be a visit to museums … so buckle up for a bit of history!
Short History on The Three Cities:
When the Order of St John first arrived on Malta, the Knights settled in Valletta. However, the center of their world was Birgu where they built forts, a hospital and several churches and palaces.
But after 1565 this project was destroyed by The Great Siege and it was then that the three cities’ names changed. Birgu’s name has changed to Vittoriosa, while L’Isla was renamed Senglea (renamed after French Grand Master Claude de la Sengle) and Bormla became Cospicua.
Vittoriosa, Senglea & Cospicua:
Although the Three Cities are very close together and therefore easy to visit, we have only visited Vittoriosa and Senglea. Senglea was also our base on our first visit to Malta. Cospicua is one of the most important industrial centers of Malta and we have travelled several times through this little town with the bus, but never took any photo’s.
Vittoriosa is without doubt the most important city of the three. The Knights of Malta chose Vittoriosa (then known as Birgu) as their capital where they built palaces and churches, as well as a new harbour. Fort St Angelo was the Knight’s headquarters in The Great Siege and can clearly be seen when one enters the Grand Harbour.
While in Vittoriosa, we’ve visited the Maritime Museum, Inquisitor’s Palace and the Malta at War Museum.
The Maritime Museum:
This building was previously known as the Royal Naval bakery – at one time it fed the whole Mediterranean fleet – but it is now converted into a museum, which opened in 1992.
Ship models include a grand master’s ceremonial barge, a lateen-rigged Gozo ferry and a “third-rate ship-on-the-line” from the mid-18th century.
Here are just a few photo’s we’ve taken inside the museum:
After our visit to the Maritime Museum, it was time for a rest at one of the many restaurants. We’ve opted for the Tate Restaurant where Berto had a huge piece of chocolate cake and I had the sweetest chocolate croissant.
We had a lovely view over the clock tower and the harbour while having a break from our day of visiting museums.
After our sweet treats at Tate Restaurant, we’ve taken a stroll through the streets of Vittoriosa before getting on with our museum visits – it was now time for The Inquisitor’s Palace.
The Inquisitor’s Palace:
The Office of the Inquisition existed to defend the Catholic faith and counter heresy. As the Pope’s agent, the Inquisitor was stylishly housed in a Palace that was built around 1574.
Since the palace became a museum in 1995, it is focusing on the religious values in Maltese identity up to the present day, especially as influenced by the Inquisition.
Malta at War Museum:
Our final visit to a museum in Vittoriosa, was the Malta at War Museum. This museum is dedicated to Malta’s role in World War II. The museum is housed within a barrack block and a rock-hewn air-raid shelter within Couvre Porte Counterguard.
During World War II, the St John Ambulance and the Red Cross worked together to meet wartime medical- and welfare needs on the home front and overseas – they formed the Joint War Organisation (JWO).
After walking through the museum, we had the opportunity to climb down into the bomb-shelter complex underneath the building. We got to wear bright yellow hard-hats because some of the ceilings are very low.
Life inside these air raid shelters were safe, but far from comfortable. Lying deep in the rock, shelters were cold and humid throughout the year.
Over-crowding, lack of sanitary facilities and poor ventilation were only a few of the uncomfortable ways of living in these shelters. Occupants covered every bit of available floor space in these structures – the lucky ones slept on makeshift bunks set into the wall, while others slept on the cold barren floor … but I presume, it was a small price to pay to stay alive during the war.
This was quite a unique and intense experience for us and only after walking through these shelters, one realise the intensity of a war and how it must have affected the people during that time.
Senglea was worst hit of the Three Cities in World War II and the rebuilt town shows little in common with L’Isla (as it was known at the time of the Knights).
There is a small public garden located on the ramparts from where there is a beautiful view of Valletta. It is at this garden, where the famous lookout post (a watchtower) is situated.
On our first visit to Malta, we’ve stayed here in Senglea. We’ve taken many long walks to admire the beautiful fortified walls and steep stairways that led to more streets (and more steps!)
As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of this post, though we’ve driven through this city quite a lot (to get to Senglea), we’ve actually never walked around in Cospicua.
This is the largest of the Three Cities and while it was at first a small fishing village, it is nowadays a flourishing town. I remember seeing beautiful churches and a shining statue of the Virgin Mary on our way through Cospicua and will definitely recommend that if you do get the chance, to explore this city as well.
This was our take on the Three Cities of Malta. Next on the list, is a visit to the Blue Grotto and some prehistoric sites – until then!
We have done these trips in 2011 & 2013